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Populism: Main Features. Reported by Mykhailo Minakov, Regional Director for Program Development, Eurasia Foundation in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova; Head of the Alumni Association of The Ukrainian School for Political Studies Conference “Temptation of Populism”, Sofia, March 30 – 31, 2007.

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Populism main features
Populism: Main Features

Reported by Mykhailo Minakov, Regional Director for Program Development, Eurasia Foundation in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova; Head of the Alumni Association of The Ukrainian School for Political Studies

Conference “Temptation of Populism”, Sofia, March 30 – 31, 2007

Populism today s topic
populism : today’s topic

we will NOT speak about populism as:

“narodnichestvo” in Russia, XIX century

name of a political movement in contemporary USA

we WILL SPEAK about populism in politics that never names itself ‘populism’

Populism definition
populism : definition

pretend to solve difficult problems by simple remedies

promise to defend the common people against entrenchedelite

provoke distrust to representative democracy

Social science on populism
social science on populism

political doctrine against “corrupt elite”, for the “common people” and “natural order”

prophesy that they represent the majority of the people

appeal to a specific region or to a specific social class or ethnic group

citizens get more active and request fast solutions of problems

populism is inevitable in current democracies:

any political regime needs a supplementary "populist" dimension for legitimacy

Philosophy on populism

Slavoj Zizek

“the demise of political reason,… outburst of blind utopian passions”

a global antagonistic struggle between "us" (people) and "them."

Ernesto Laclau

the conceptual opposition between populism and politics

in populism, the enemy is externalized/reified into a positive ontological entity

philosophy on populism

Populism features
populism : features

  • use simplistic argumentation

  • propose final solutions

  • aim at irrational consensus

Simplistic argumentation
simplistic argumentation

  • refer to biases and “common knowledge” : share the bias

  • establish personal contact with voter : use emotions

  • do not request judgments : be one of them

  • do not refer to difficult choices: “yes” or “no” logic

Final solutions
final solutions

address the need : reinforce dissatisfaction

speak of noble aim : don’t mention tools

promise final solution : ignore reality

Irrational consensus
irrational consensus

base agreement on shared beliefs, biases and prejudices

form the expectation, then promise to fulfill it

rely on political technologies and mass media

build consensus within majority, separate those opposed

Populism everything s personal an organic match


requires personal trust and loyalty

declares to take responsibility

calls against politics

is a show-person


trusts person, not institution

eager to get rid of responsibility

hates the politics

is a show-fan

populism : everything's personalan organic match

Populism non political strata
populism : non-political strata

  • pastoral

  • economic

  • cultural, etc.

Pastoral populism
pastoral populism

utopian visions of good old times in the countryside

paternalistic trends and neotraditionalism

rural racism / nationalism

“war of cities and villages”

Economic populism
economic populism

local market for local producers

budget should be spent on those who pay taxes

income should go to those who work

“war of poor and rich”

Cultural populism
cultural populism

narcissism of small differences

what makes US different is substantial

OUR cultural peculiarities have “ontological” value

“war of cultures”

Populism ontological oppositions



working people










populism : ontological oppositions

Danger of populism

ruins trust in democratic institutions

provokes civil conflict

ruins political rationalism, tempts with simple solutions to difficult problems

danger of populism

Most successful populists in coe countries
most successful populists(in CoE countries)

  • Silvio Berlusconi, Italy

  • the Kachinski brothers, Poland

  • Vladimir Zhyrinovsky, Russia

  • Jörg Haider, Austria

  • Jean-Marie Le Pen, France

Populism in ukraine
populism in Ukraine

populists are a core of establishment : usual political tactic

being a new democracy, populism is especially dangerous for citizens’ trust in democratic institutions in Ukraine

Populism in ukraine 2
populism in Ukraine (2)

supports myth of ontologically different East and West

ruins roots of ideology within a party

growing civic distrust of any political plans and programs

Populists in ukraine an example
populists in Ukraine(an example)

Block of Yuliia Tymoshenko

“Utility prices MUST be low for people”

local councils with the BYuT majority triples utility prices

Populists in ukraine 2 an example
populists in Ukraine (2)(an example)

Party of Regions

“Life is going to be better right now”

in less than 6 months real average income dropped down

Populism solutions
populism : solutions

are there any ???